“Dreamscape”
PEOPLE PLACES - Flor Ynclino (The Freeman) - May 19, 2017 - 4:00pm

It is a collection of paintings conceived during siesta, a Spanish colonial legacy intrinsic in the Philippine culture: “When I was in the corporate world, a siesta was considered The Great Escape. One has to hide somewhere to get that luxurious nap.”

Artist Raymond Legaspi graduated from the University of Santo Tomas with a diploma in Advertising. For the next two decades, he worked in the advertising industry – from being a production artist in 1987 to executive creative director in 2006. After going through the circuit of seven agencies and garnering numerous creative rewards, he decided to leave it all and go back to Silay, Negros Occidental to pursue full-time painting.

Legaspi’s background contextualizes his idyllic representations in oil canvas, a narrative of the return to rural he has explicitly put in all of his artistic statements. As such, his body of work belies the calm it shows. It is a text that must be read through an active gaze employed by an artist resolute in turning away from the center.

Literally, the series are portraits of sleeping women. Those who are not naked wear the ubiquitous daster, a lightweight clothing usually worn inside the home. But the artist skillfully infuses another disparate element in the domesticity and comfort conveyed by females in various states of repose. He drowns the silence of sleep on the canvas with the noise of a proliferation of hues and patterns – on the daster and on the bedsheets. This noise is central to the artist’s depiction of utopia that defines his creative statement – an exploration of a fictive space of solace from and within he paints his ouvres. The operative word is “fiction,” and as with the rest of his narrative, it needs unpacking so as to be able to accurately locate the core of Legaspi’s practice.

What Legaspi highlights are not portraits of corpulent female bodies – the intimations to intimacy, the private and plump, the relaxed and rural. These are but negatives imprinted on a contemporary metanarrative he knows all too well.

“Dreamscape,” as the title implies, invites the viewer to look at the portraits as landscapes that reveal the horror vacuum of a culture and system. Where affluence is prime and, hence, more is deemed as more. The clashing patterns, multicolored florals and foliage, kitschy and pastiche, intricately painted in bright hues – all point to a lack that defines and redefines the artist’s valuation of what is rest and unrest, as informed by his forays in the Center. Escape is not a geographical destination nor an end, but a repetition of creative process – to create, again and again; to recreate aspirations and hopes fast consumed and disposable; to maintain a semblance of the dream – the only acceptable.

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